Summer’s demands are relatively few and by far the most agreeable. The warmest season of the year asks that we consider things like vacation, sun block, starry skies, backyard cookouts, outdoor movies, and ice-cold refreshments. From a cocktail perspective, it’s pretty fun and straightforward as well. All you really need are four versatile bottles for your bar cart — a spirited quadruple that’s so dependable, it’ll form the foundation for your social sipping hour all summer long.
Here, in the very heart of the calendar year, we covet the lighter things. We’re shedding layers and looking for shade. Our drinks echo as much, sacrificing weight and hearty flavors for finesse and utter refreshment. These are the cocktail equivalents of board shorts, swimsuits, and floppy hats.
Unsurprisingly, the spirits we count on to transition properly to full-time summer mode are on the lighter side. Our palates wander from the dense and layered end of the spectrum toward things like vodka, blanco tequila, and gin. Even certain whiskies are up for the season, provided you’re working with the right recipe. So, if you could have just four trusty bottles to get you mixing through summer in style, what would they be?
First, a nimble vodka that’s much more than just a backdrop for soda or fresh-squeezed juice. Ketel One is that clear spirit, impeccably smooth and rounded out by pleasant flavors like citrus and wild honey. It’s a crisp vodka that’s especially suited for the minimalist cocktail, made to play a leading role and do so gracefully.
Next, a medium-bodied tequila like Don Jon Julio Blanco. This tropical-kissed agave spirit is wonderfully clean, showing zippy grapefruit, subtle earthy notes, and a hint of smoke. It’s equal parts fruity and peppery, the epitome of balance in a good tequila. Keep a bottle of this at your side, preferably near your stash of fresh juices. You can even try it out as a substitute for bourbon and rum. You’ll be amazed by this workhorse tequila, not only for its flexibility but its inherent ability to summer-ize a cocktail.
To add some timeless flair, a quality gin is needed. A choice bottle of this aromatic spirit can deliver in countless ways, whether you’re mixing up OG drinks from the pre-Prohibition days or looking to whip up a modern take on a thirst-quenching G&T. Tanqueray never fails to impress, riding that fine line between complex and approachable. The citrus, juniper, and subtle anise notes coexist in near-perfect harmony.
Lastly, a refined whisky is in order. Crown Royal Deluxe is deserving of a place in your cart, a Canadian whisky with lovely dried fruit and honey notes and hints of sweetness and spice. There’s a bit of vanilla, along with some oaky barrel influence as well. Few brown spirits can adapt to the changing weather quite like this one.
So, as spring begins to fade into summer and we break out the pool floaties and lawn games, get your bar cart in gear as well. Here are four cocktails that utilize the above selections, just in time for the next heat wave.
Simple, unfussy, and tremendously refreshing, this leisurely drink just about sums up summer. Be sure to adjust your sugar ratios accordingly in your batch of lemonade, depending on whether you’re after more zip or sweetness. No matter, the vodka’s smoothness and lengthy finish will shine through.
- 1 ½ ounces Ketel One Vodka
- 3 ounces freshly squeezed lemonade
- Lemon wedge for garnish
- Build in a Collins glass over ice.
- Add vodka.
- Top with fresh lemonade.
- Garnish with a lemon wedge.
Don Julio Sunrise
Part of the allure of the Sunrise is the gentle fade effect you can pull off when you inject a little extra care into your pouring. It’s delicious, eye-catching, and can also be pulled off with cherry juice or grenadine in case you’re missing cranberry juice.
- 1 ½ ounces Don Julio Blanco
- 4 ounces orange juice
- ¼ ounce cranberry juice
- Sea salt
- Cherry for garnish
- Mix tequila and orange juice in a separate container.
- Rim highball glass with sea salt.
- Add big ice cubes to the glass.
- Add cranberry juice to the glass.
- Slowly pour tequila and orange juice mixture into the glass.
- Garnish with a cherry.
Tanqueray and Tonic
The Gin and Tonic is adored all over the world, maybe the most clutch cocktail selection during the dog days of summer. This version is straightforward, highlighting the subtleties of the gin and framing it with a good, quality tonic water. For presentation points, make some gin-loving ice by putting a few herbs (rosemary, clove, etc.) in your tray before it freezes.
- 1 ½ ounces Tanqueray London Dry Gin
- 4 ounces tonic water
- Lime for garnish
- Pour Tanqueray into copa glass.
- Add plenty of ice and add tonic water.
- Add wedge of lime and stir.
Classic Whisky Ranch Water
Ranch Water began in the scorching terrain of West Texas. It’s traditionally a three-ingredient tequila drink but this version shows that it can be just as refreshing as a whisky sipper.
- 1 ½ ounces Crown Royal Deluxe Whisky
- ½ ounce lemon juice
- 3 ounces soda or sparkling water
- Lemon for garnish
- Combine ingredients over ice in a highball glass.
- Stir and garnish with lemon.
This article is sponsored by Diageo.